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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  


Monday, September 15, 2014

Second Spring

A new generation joins the Gypsies on old trails and new climbs, bringing a second spring of laughter, adventure, wonder and discovery, memories of days past and hopes for the future.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Help us Save Blair Mountain!

Yo, climbers!

Too many mountains (over 450 of them and counting) have been erased from the landscape of West Virginia and the surrounding Appalachian States.

Now that process threatens a mountain that stands for so much more, Blair Mountain.

How would you pay tribute to a place that changed the course of the labor movement forever? 

We stand at a fork in the road where we can either protect the West Virginia mountain where coal miners fought for their right to unionize, after enduring years of abuse at the hands of both law and coal thugs. Fragmentation bombs were dropped on miners, after machine guns were used to strafe their families and homes from a flatbed railroad car.

We can remember the struggle of these people to simply be treated like human beings, and protect the mountain that stands as a monument to their fight and sacrifices.

Or we can allow Big Coal to blow the top off Blair Mountain in exchange for a simple plaque.

A plaque would not replace Yorktown, or Gettysburg.

And all the plaques on earth cannot replace one mountain.

Tell the Army Corps of Engineers that a plaque won't do. Blair Mountain is an important part of our history and deserves to be off limits to mountain top removal mining.

Find out more and send your message here: http://action.sierraclub.org/ProtectBlairMtn

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Echoes of days gone by

Spent a couple of hours with the Monongahela National Forest Cheat-Potomac ranger station's trail guru, head ranger and recreation director on Friday, walking trails and talking about access, impact sources (both climbing and non-climbing), and looking at parking and shuttle options at the Guide Wall and Long Branch, Fortress, Entrance Walls and Reed's.

So far, they are impressed with our homegrown grassroots efforts at trail-building and enthusiastically supportive of a program of proactive impact management.

Segued out of that and into the daily grind, emails and calls and texts, and rendezvous was made with Andrew Suter and company for a strike on the Guide Wall despite morning rain and cloudy skies. A caravan settled into the limited parking, late arrivals arrived, and we trudged up the faint trail as more climbers crammed the shoulders below in search of parking.

Smoke Hole is a scene again.

The new arrivals headed up to Long Branch, and we could hear their fun throughout the afternoon, as I am sure they heard ours; newcomers and returning climbers enjoying great routes in an incredible setting, finding climbable routes in conditions that often spell the end of climbing days in a lot of other places.

There were on-sights and top-rope battles of epic proportions, torrents of beta and shouts of encouragement and cries of victory and frustration, with laughter the entire time.

It was like echoes of days gone by.

Mid-afternoon, we bid fond farewell to Kat and Dawg and Major, while the rest of the crew ran up moderates bolted by the cream of Seneca Rocks and one or two things added later by humble mortals such as your author.

Staggering off to bed now to reunite with the survivors of a rough bivvy (and possible overnight headlamp ascents) at Eagle Rocks in the morning, bound for Reed's or the Entrance Walls.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Precious memories

A lot of page views yesterday.

Amid the headlines and the memorials, I paused in the middle of my morning, put aside my tool pouches, and spent a silent minute in memory of fallen friends.

Every year, on this day, we will say your names.

In our hearts, we will say all of your names.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thanks to all the Kickstarters

Wow, crazy month, but just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to each and every one of the people who helped us reach our goal on Kickstarter:

Robert Abramowitz
Jon Alexander
Kristin Anderson
Ex Pow-anpongkul
Ethan Atwood
Henry Barkhausen
Jeff Baxter
Ed Begoon
Gabi Benel
Don Blume
Nicholas Borror
Dallas Branum
Brian Bridges
John Burcham
John Burkhart
Adam Byrd
Tony Canike
Cedric Capiaux
Nathan Cauffman
David Ciesla
Tommy Cockerell
Tim Collins
Sarah Cook
Joe Coover
Dennis Coyle
Jackson Crane
Kirby Crider
Josh Davidson
Garth Dellinger
Chelsea Devening
Brandon Dorman
Andrew Dotson
Rick Dotson
Gary Dunn
Brian Dziekonsky
Chris Egress
Sherry Erickson
Ryan Eubank
Morgan Falls
Mike Farnsworth
Keith Fegler
Jeremy Fox
Ryan Fishel
Lucas Fisher
Mark Folsom
Curtis Gale-Dryer
James Garner
John Gathrite
Tom Georgevits
Jackson Goss
Gilbert Gray
Charles Green
Michael Greene
Peter Guyre
Stephen Haase
John Harman
Amy Hazam
Jeanette Helfrich
Michael and Liz Horlick
Eric Horst
John Huber
Alexander Hypes
Collin Jenkins
Stephanie Jesteadt
Adam Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Steve Jones
Jude Kalet
John Kelbel
James Kim
Jeff Koelemay
Takuto Lehr
George Lewis
Patrick Light
Anliko Lowman
Phil Lutz
Hung Ly
Connie Magee
Kristan Markey
Joshua McVeigh
Paul Meehan
David Mitchell
Aaron Moses
Ian Nathan
Ryan Nelling
Jennifer O’Brien
Mark O’Neal
Ted Plaase
David Raines
Eduardo Ramirez
Scott Ransom
Aaron Ray
David Riggs
Chris Riha
Milas Robertson
Danny Rowand
Regina Schulte-Ladbeck
Eric Seme
Corey Shaw
Lisa Shepherd
Thomas Shifflett
Kelly Shipp
Brian Skarda
Todd Sleeman
Doug Smith
Douglas D. Smith
Craig Spaulding
Ronnie Stadtfeld
Jerry Stankunas
Zachary Stone
Lisa Storey
Greg Sudlow
Paul Sullivan
Andrew Suter
Christopher Sweet
Donovan Sweet
Samuel Taggart
Matt Thomas
Joe Thompson
John Tung
David Turk
Voltaire Valle
Frank Velez
Corey Vezina
Johnathan Wachtel
Josiah Weeks
Rachel Wills
Sigmund Young
Sofia Zarfas
Lester Zook

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Save the DATE! Hallowe'en weekend Trail Daze: Reed's Creek

Make your plans now to join the Potomac Highlands Anchor Replacement/Upgrade Program (PHAR/UP) on Hallowe'en weekend, Friday, October 31st through Sunday, November 2nd, 2014, a weekend of community, trail work, clean-up and climbing.

Limit 20 people, so sign up now!

Depending on the weather, PHAR/UP will reserve a Smoke Hole campsite, or two cabins at Thorn Springs 4-H Camp just south of Franklin, for the use of our volunteers. We will be supplying hot grub and cold refreshments while handing out Smoke Hole T-shirts, Owlfeather jewelry and other prizes to those who attend.

We'll also raffle off a new guidebook, to be delivered to your door when they come back from the publisher in December.

Respond in the comments section of this post or email wvmgray@gmail.com to reserve your spot.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Check us out and give us a "Like" on Facebook!

Drop by and say "Hello" next time you're online, and check out some of Cindy's great creations at Owlfeather Productions

Interested in more Smoke Hole events and info?  Check out our Smoke Hole Canyon page for trail work, clean-ups, giveaways, and access information.

Look to This Day

"Look to this day, for it is life. The very life of life. Within its brief span, lies all the verities and realities of your existence. The bliss of growth. The glory of action. The splendor of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is but a vision. But, today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day."

Bruce Lee

Monday, September 1, 2014

Birthday Weekend

With both Cindy and our brother John celebrating birthdays over the weekend, we made the most of the holiday.

Unfazed by an early-morning drive from Connecticut, Chris Beauchamp enjoys a dose of Nightshade

Gracie was exhausted by all the excitement.

Josh Light sets his sights on the second roof of Sea Of Tranquility

Cindy stepping up into the moves on Second Rule, after John's casual warm-up lead.

John  finds his own moment of Zen, alone on an island, Entrance Walls, Smoke Hole Canyon.

Thanks to Chris Beauchamp and company for coming out to discover and enjoy our crags.  Stay safe out there in your journeys, and come see us again soon. 

Thanks to Josh Light and Tyler Hall (and Gracie) for stopping in the middle of the road to ask if I was Mike Gray, for sharing your excitement about the area and for asking all those questions about trails, trad, access and bolting and development, for being hungry and curious and driven, and still knowing how to appreciate a good mountaintop campsite, a sweet moderate line, and the finer qualities of a dip of peach snuff. 

Hoping the rest of you had a blast, as well.

Back to basics

The steady tap of rain falling on metal in my drowsing, pre-dawn hours; Cindy's soft breaths a whisper that threads the falling drops and leads me back into sleep.

Strong coffee and bright bars of sunlight, clean against the bruised bellies of clouds, breaking gold and green from the walnut trees to spin down gently to the diamond-strewn grass, caught dancing in spider webs and fluttering amid trailing vines of morning glory, honeysuckle and fox grape, cicadas and locusts murmuring requiem as I wander into the fragrant sauna of an early autumn morning in the Alleghenies.

The smell of forest and meadow, the hot tar of the road, the sweet fragrance of pine and cedar, the musky scent of a white-tail’s rub, a puff of diesel and the sad after-scent of fallen oaks and hickories as a massive logging truck roars past, a leviathan that explodes from around the bend and is gone, just as soon, leaving blue jays screaming murder to the unconcerned forest.

Breathe deep, and be here, right here, right now, if only for this moment.

Understand that, in the time scale of the forest and the mountains, you are a flicker of light, a cloudshadow against the moon, swiftly passing.

One life, one arrow.


Back to basics.